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Review: OMEN IV and OMEN V

Everyone knows the classic film “The Omen.” Horror fans fondly remember its cinematic sequels, “Damien: Omen II” and “Omen III: The Final Conflict.” Some might even recall the less-than-stellar 1991 made-for-TV movie “Omen IV: The Awakening.” But very few have read the two official paperback novels that continued the adventures of the antichrist during the mid-80s. And that’s a shame, because they’re both worth reading.

“Omen IV: Armageddon 2000” is an enjoyable slice of occult hokum that picks up exactly where “The Final Conflict” left off. Better written than it needs to be, you can practically hear Jerry Goldsmith’s Oscar winning score kick in every time another bizarre murder takes place within its pages. Speaking of murders, this book’s loaded with ’em! The impressive body count rivals the movie franchise in terms of elaborate gore, and the whole thing builds to a downbeat, apocalyptic climax involving Biblical prophecy, war in the Middle East and nuclear weapons. Best remembered for the sleazy method in which Damien’s son is born (wrong orifice, is all I’ll say), “Omen IV: Armageddon” won’t win any prizes for originality, depth or scares… but as a nostalgic example of large-scale Satanic horror, it goes down pretty smooth.

Unfortunately, “Omen V: The Abomination” isn’t quite as strong as its predecessor. Gordon McGill’s writing remains solid, but there’s not much energy left in Damien’s saga by this point in the series. It takes almost 100 pages (out of a scant 219) for an actual Omen-style death to occur, and even then it’s disappointingly humdrum. The body count is low, and far too little happens for most of the story. Damien’s grouchy offspring (unimaginative named ‘Damien II’) makes one last attempt at world domination, while the novel’s hero, a dull Hemingwayesque writer researching a book about the Thorn family, tries to figure out how to work a high-tech word processor. The (anti)climax reads like a watered-down version of the “Omen IV” ending, which was only so-so to begin with.

But the book isn’t a total loss. What’s most interesting about this final chapter is that it takes place after a portion of the planet has been destroyed by nuclear weapons. This places the story firmly in speculative sci-fi territory, and McGill gives us several intriguing glimpses of life in a post-apocalyptic world filled with weird weather patterns, mass starvation, political chaos and religious fundamentalism.

Ultimately, these are two fascinating additions to the official “Omen” canon, and I highly recommend them to all of Damien’s curious disciples.